Dr. James Daane raised a question recently in connection with the current discussion of the doctrine of limited atonement in its relation to the missionary task of the church. He isn’t sure that it is proper and “discreet” for the editor-in-chief of the Christian Reformed weekly. The Banner, to bring to the widely-read pages of that periodical his opinions on this issue. Daane asserts:
It was just a few years ago that appeal was made to the rank and file, and then the Christian Reformed churches were quite unceremoniously plunged into a controversy about biblical inspiration. Viewed overall, it did the church no good. Let her not be plunged with haphazard unconcern into another, (Reformed Journal, February 1963).
Dr. Daane might be right when he judges that the controversy regarding biblical inspiration did the church no good, if he has in mind the fact that this discussion damaged the Christian Reformed Church’s reputation for sterling orthodoxy. It must be remembered, however, that neither the biblical inspiration issue nor the present discussion concerning the universality of God’s love was initiated by the editor of The Banner. In both cases carefully written articles appeared in published form, and these articles did not merely raise some interesting questions but made specific charges and recommended the adoption of certain considered opinions. This is especially true of the current debate, which was precipitated by a Seminary professor who repeats that what he is saying is something which he teaches his students in a denominationally owned and operated theological school.
When responsible people offer their considered opinions on important matters it is the better part of Christian realism to expect and welcome reaction throughout the church, including its “denominational publications.” If denominational periodicals should speak at all, certainly it ought to be then when the church’s faith and action is subjected to a searching criticism. If the editor of such a publication has any responsibility, it must be to speak to the issues which arise in the concrete, historical situation of the church’s experience.
The present discussion on the doctrine of the limited atonement is now the public property of the church, and it is that by no fault of the editor of The Banner, or any other journal which has entered upon it. Doctrinal discussion and controversy must be carried on “decently and in good order,” of course. But this cannot mean that these things must be regarded as “narrowly theological,” so that only the initiated and the educated may be allowed to participate. Surely, “we call and pay seminary professors to give their lives to these matters” (although that is putting it less delicately that one might wish!). But this cannot mean that doctrinal discussions involving the life and the faith of the church ought to be kept from the “ordinary elders” in the congregations, or even from the members in general? I would rather believe that these people not only pay the hire of these theological experts, but that they have the right and duty to test whatever these people say according to the standard of God’s Word.
Dr. Daane is not suggesting, I’m sure, that we recognize a distinction between the “teaching” and the “listening” church. Every believer is a prophet (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day XII), and every member of the Christian community will “know himself bound to employ his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and salvation of other members.” Let us hope that our theologians will be willing to be ready and cheerful as those who know that their only superiority is one of greater responsibility!
REIN LEESTMA Grand Rapids
Why Do We Do Less?
The statistics of the Mormon Church have recently been released through the pages of The Church News, the Saturday section of the Latter Day Saint daily newspaper, Deseret News. Here is the story:
Last year’s convert baptisms in the missions and stakes reached the unexpected total of 115,000 to set an all-time record…the total converts baptized in the missions was 105,000 and the stakes baptized a total 10,000.
An indication of the remarkable convert baptism achievement in 1962 is shown by the figures of the four previous years in the full-time missions—1961, 77,969; 1960, 38,249; 1959, 23,026; and 1958, 22,922 (Deseret News, Feb. 2, 1963).
It is expected that 1962 “will close with membership at approximately 1,985,000 . On the basis of an over-all Church growth of approximately 12,500 per month, the two-million membership mark should be passed during: February of 1963” (Deseret News, Dec. 29, 1962).
This year closed with a total of 11,765 full-time missionaries in the missions. Added to this total is the 5,600 stake missionaries and 547 district missionaries, for a grand total of 17,916 missionaries preaching the gospel at the end of 1962 (Deseret News, Feb. 2, 1963)
In addition, last October the Latter Day Saints church purchased the Boston short-wave radio station WRUL for $1,750,000. This station beams programs to 109 countries throughout the world and is being used extensively for broadcasting the Mormon gospel of untruth to Europe, Africa, South America and Mexico.
One stands amazed and perplexed at the great powers which Satan uses to confuse, confound and convert such great numbers of people into this heretical sect, a sect which preaches that God is man and man is God, that the dead have a “second chance” through proxy baptism, and that the Bible is only a second-rate Scripture.
One stands amazed at Satan’s power, yes! But one wonders also at the inertia of fellow Christians with respect to the spread of the true gospel…
To make a local application: Surely the Christian Reformed Church could have done better than it has in its efforts to bring to men the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! Interesting enough, Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847—the same year that Dominie Van Raalte came to found Holland, Michigan. We have had almost the same amount of time in which to work.
It is possible to hide behind such statements as “Weeds grow faster than flowers.” But isn’t this merely an effort to find an excuse? True, the gospel of salvation by sovereign grace “is to them that perish foolishness,” and the doctrine of the Latter Day Saints church is a “wisdom of the world.” Nevertheless, have we not really been remiss in our duty? It seems to me that the Mormon Church with its large and enthusiastic program of “evangelization” stands in our time as a rebuke to the Church of Christ which ought so to strive to win men to that life in Christ which truly glorifies God!
The Mormons have done and are doing much! Why ao we do less?
NICHOLAS VOGELZAN S. Salt Lake City, Utah
Suggestions for Calling Ministers
Much reflection upon and discussion of the present method of calling ministers in the Christian Reformed Church with several fellow believers, including a number of pastors, leads me to the firm conviction that our time-honored system is not only biblical in principle but advantageous in practise. Briefly, I believe it is superior therefore to the methods used in some other denominations.
However, we also recognize that our use of the system is not perfect, and that improvements ought to be made to help eliminate these two of the larger problems this area of church activity presents: first, how to enable congregations calling a pastor to obtain the best available man for their particular needs, and that sooner than many are able to do now; and second, how to enable pastors to facilitate a move to another congregation when they sense the real need to do so, either for the sake of the congregation, for themselves, or both.
USING THE MEANS
We sincerely believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit in all affairs of the Church, not the least in the function of calling a suitable pastor for a given congregation. But just as we believe that the Holy Spirit uses the means of grace—the pure preaching of the Word and the right use of the sacraments—for the bringing of persons to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, so we also believe that the Holy Spirit uses honorable means in a proper manner to give Christ’s pastors to the churches. It is to honor the Spirit when we use all God-given means faithfully and obediently, including our intelligence, knowledge, ecclesiastical procedures, etc.
We might point to two areas in this respect which do reflect a more careful mode of procedure than is now being followed by our individual congregations. I refer to the offices of professor of theology and missionary, both foreign and domestic. These are filled by calling men carefully screened and discussed by boards and committees to make sure that there is a degree of aptitude and qualification on the part of those assigned to this service. I believe that this points in the right direction (without denying that it, like all else, is subject to abuse!), for I am sure that we can expect God’s blessing upon obedient, faithful, prayerful effort rather than upon those procedures which glorify hap-hazard work under the very wrong title; “blind faith.” Faith is not blind but knowing, and Paul rightly said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b, 13).
Therefore we recommend that consistories or councils send overtures to their respective classes, urging that synod be overtured with respect to this entire matter. Let these overtures request such things as:
1. That synod endorse the practise and encourage the consistories of congregations in the process of calling a pastor to:
a. Ask their counsellor for suggestions of names of ministers whom they regard as suitable and desirable for their church, and to establish as regular practise the presence of the counsellor at the consistory meeting at which this work is done.
b. Send competent committees to listen to sermons and to interview pastors whom the consistory feels it might like the congregation to call. These committees can then report on their impressions at the congregational meeting at which the voting takes place.
c. Contact each minister nominated to ask of him before the congregation votes as to the existence of any reason why he cou.ld not consider a call from this church at that time.
d. Request ministers nominated to preach for the “vacant” congregation and to meet its members before actual voting takes place.
1. That synod encourage pastors to make known their interest and availability to a specific congregation if they so desire.
2. That synod set up a requirement that each classis appoint one minister (presumably one of its older, more experienced and more competent members) to serve in an advisory capacity to each counsellor of a pastor~less congregation.
3. That synod encourage the practise of nominating two rather than three or even four ministers to be voted upon by the congregation.
4. That synod express itself rather strongly against the practise of calling a pastor who has not been in his present charge at least four years. This will eliminate the pastorate too brief to be effective, and will also encourage the calling of certain ministers that have been serving a certain church for a longer period of time.
5. That synod express that it generally considers the ideal length of a pastorate to be not more than ten years.
6. That synod urge the above in order that a better distribution of ministerial talent be achieved, to the enrichment of the spiritual life of all the churches in our denomination.
We believe the above recommendations to be quite simple and very easy to put into practise. They are also in basic agreement for the most part with our existing rules on this matter, and are used by sister denominations with substantially the same church order as ours. Proper publicity in the periodicals in our circles would hasten acceptance of these ideas on the part of our membership. And, we are certain, worthwhile effort along the lines indicated will be for the wellbeing of the churches.
PETER BONNEMA Denver